Signals 2014: Our well-being depends on a resource-efficient, circular economy

News Published 03 Jun 2014 Last modified 31 Aug 2016
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Photo: © Asa Hellstrom
How do we create a performing economy that creates jobs and ensures our well-being, yet respects the limits of our planet? This question is considered in the latest edition of Signals, an annual publication from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The latest edition of Signals published today looks at the environmental effects of our current consumption and production system. It shows how we often extract limited resources faster than the planet can produce them, turn them into products using environmentally harmful processes and then discard these products after a limited period of use.

Our consumption has a significant environmental impact:

  • Europeans used almost 16 tonnes of materials per capita in 2011. This varies across Europe, with Finns using around 30 tonnes of resources per year while the average Maltese citizen only consumed five tonnes.
  • Consumption habits are changing – for example Europeans eat twice as much meat as they did 50 years ago, which increases demand for land and other resources.
  • Europeans generated 4.5 tonnes of waste per capita in 2010.
  • Approximately a third of food is wasted in the EU. Of this waste, approximately two fifths is wasted during the manufacturing process and another two fifths are discarded in homes.

The publication also includes many solutions which could 'green' the economy. Better consumer choices, more recycling and even improvements in town planning can help, according to some of the experts interviewed in Signals. Together, these ideas could effectively create a 'circular economy', where waste becomes a resource to be reused.

The publication is illustrated with pictures and cartoons from Waste•smART, a recent EEA competition on the theme of waste. It also includes several fascinating infographics. Over the coming months it will be made available in more than 25 European languages.

Green Week 2014

Signals will be launched today at Green Week, the annual European Union policy conference. Like Signals, the theme of this year's conference is also transforming the economy. The EEA will take part in many different discussions, on topics ranging from new business models to the way communication can help make a transition towards a green economy. For more details of EEA events at Green Week, see the events pages.


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